Bit­ter­sweet day at races

Stratford Press - - News - By ILONA HANNE

Hun­dreds of race­go­ers came to en­joy what might be the last race day at Strat­ford’s Te Ka­pua Park on the last Satur­day of 2018.

It was bit­ter­sweet for many race­go­ers on the day, with Mar­jorie Prince and her hus­band Ge­orge among the many who had en­joyed the Strat­ford races for years.

“We come ev­ery year from the Waikato for this event, it’s al­ways a good day out and I can’t be­lieve this will be the last time we can come and en­joy rac­ing here.”

Mar­jorie says while she un­der­stands some of the rea­son­ing be­hind the con­tro­ver­sial Mes­sara Re­port which has rec­om­mended the clo­sure of 20 race­courses in­clud­ing Strat­ford to help the rac­ing in­dus­try be­come prof­itable, she still thinks clos­ing Strat­ford’s race­course is a bad idea.

“Just look around you. There are hun­dreds of peo­ple here to­day of all ages, from all over the place, join­ing to­gether to have a good day out. The kids you see play­ing games to­day will be the pun­ters of the fu­ture as long as they grow up be­ing able to watch rac­ing. Take this track away from them and they won’t, be­cause they won’t know how much fun horse rac­ing is.”

Arthur Hig­gins had come from Welling­ton with two of his grand­chil­dren to spend the day at the races.

“I try to take the grand­kids to a race day ev­ery year, and know­ing this might be the last time Strat­ford had one, we de­cided to make it Strat­ford this year. I’ve been be­fore but not for a few years and the kids have never been. They have had a great day and are al­ready ask­ing if we will come again. Well, they won’t be able to will they and that’s a damn shame re­ally.”

De­spite the po­ten­tial of it be­ing a last hur­rah, race­go­ers still had a great day, said Strat­ford Rac­ing Club spokesman David Jones.

“The races are a fam­ily favourite in Strat­ford and it’s been great to see so many Strat­ford res­i­dents out en­joy­ing them­selves to­day, soak­ing up the sun and all-day en­ter­tain­ment.”

In De­cem­ber Rac­ing Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters an­nounced a five-mem­ber Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee to in­form the next steps on the Mes­sara Re­view of the New Zealand Rac­ing In­dus­try.

“This Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to re­form­ing the rac­ing in­dus­try. The Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Group will de­velop a plan to op­er­a­tionalise the Mes­sara Re­port to de­liver bet­ter gov­er­nance and eco­nomic out­comes,” Peters said.

Peters has ap­pointed Dean McKenzie as chair­man. He is an ex­pe­ri­enced rac­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor whose ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion to im­prov­ing the in­dus­try make him the ideal choice to lead this very im­por­tant work, Peters said.

He will be well-sup­ported by com­mit­tee mem­bers Bill Birnie, Liz Dawson, Kristy McDon­ald and Sir Peter Vela.

“Col­lec­tively, they will iden­tify the tech­ni­cal, le­gal, fi­nan­cial and process-ori­ented de­ci­sion points for rac­ing re­form and re­turn the in­dus­try to a well­man­aged and sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth path,” Peters said.

“They will also take into ac­count the feed­back re­ceived dur­ing the pub­lic sub­mis­sion process.”

The com­mit­tee will pro­vide an in­terim re­port to the Min­is­ter for Rac­ing by the end of Fe­bru­ary 2019, to be fol­lowed by Cab­i­net de­ci­sions, and leg­is­la­tion to mod­ernise the in­dus­try.

The com­mit­tee is be­ing cre­ated as a po­ten­tial pre­cur­sor to the es­tab­lish­ment of a Rac­ing In­dus­try Tran­si­tional Agency (RITA), sub­ject to fu­ture gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions.

The boys put plenty of ef­fort into the chil­dren’s tug of war com­pe­ti­tion on the day, but ul­ti­mately lost 2-1 to the stronger girls’ team!

Guil­lada rid­den by Rosie My­ers crosses the fin­ish line in first place, ahead of Re­flec­tion with jockey Lisa All­press.

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